The thing about war criminals is, more often than not, they don’t think they are war criminals. They often dispute claims of their wrongdoings right up until the bitter end. And sometimes that bitter end is very public. Such is the case of Slobodan Praljak, who killed himself in court with poison on November 29, 2017.
Who Was Slobodan Praljak?
Slobodan Praljak, 72, was a former Croatian general who was convicted of crimes that took place during the Croat-Bosniak War in the 1990s. The Hague argued that he directly and indirectly commanded Herceg-Bosna/HVO armed forces that committed atrocities during the conflict against Bosnian Muslims.
The charges included nine counts of grave breaches of the Geneva conventions, nine counts of violations of the laws or customs of war, and eight counts of crimes against humanity.
These charges stemmed from the long siege and shelling of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, an ethnically mixed city with a large Muslim population. Being a top official in the Ministry of Defense, Praljak knew about these war crimes but did nothing to stop them.
The court proceedings on November 29 marked the end of a lengthy battle. Six former Bosnian Croat political and military leaders, including Praljak, had already been convicted, but they were appealing their sentence.
The appeal failed and their sentences were upheld. Upon hearing the verdict, Praljak stood up and said: “Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal. I reject your judgment with contempt.”
With that, he lifted a glass vial filled with liquid and drank from it. Praljak’s lawyer said their client had just drunk poison and chaos ensued. The trial proceedings were suspended and the courtroom was declared a “crime scene.”
Praljak’s final moments are shrouded in confusion. Some reports say Praljak died in the court building, but others say he died in hospital. An independent investigation into his death is underway.